Relabel, Reattribute, Refocus, Revalue
These are the steps described by Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz to use when an intrusive thought pops into your head. One of the reasons I love these steps is because they help to remove some of the false importance that OCD wants you to place on certain thoughts. When you relabel to “Oh, that’s just an OCD thought,” remember that it’s a part of your brain functioning in a way that’s not serving you (reattribute), come back to your senses or something that matters to you (refocus), and then in turn detract much of the over-inflated importance of the thought (revalue), you can begin to teach your brain that everything really is ok, exactly as it is.
Rewiring the Brain to Treat OCD was the first article I read where I learned that OCD is both related to specific parts of your brain, as well as something you’re able to shift away from using your mind. I love that! I have yet to read Brain Lock, which I’m sure goes into much deeper detail on the science and processes behind, however I’ve found that understanding the four steps in and of themselves can be powerful in making significant changes and moving farther along towards full OCD recovery.
The four steps, outlined also in greater detail here, fit well in my opinion into Acceptance and Commitment Therapy when used as a means to allow what’s there to be there, while shifting your attention to something that actually is important to you – like (in my case) spending time with your boyfriend, holding your baby niece, writing an article that might help someone, or going to an amazing concert and really feeling those moments 🙂
The more you use these steps, and other similar tools like Acceptance, that allow your brain to learn over and over again that you will no longer be engaging in compulsions and everything actually is ok, the easier and more natural this becomes. This is because you’re literally rewiring your brain so that it’s a now a tool that works for you and not against you! Loooove it!
So how do you know if it’s an OCD thought? For me, an OCD thought has a certain spike behind it, and I can usually quickly recognize. And if you have even the slightest inkling that it might be, I’d trust that. But there are times, because OCD is so clever and tricky, that it can be a little harder to recognize. So here are some general guidelines I came up with:
- Is there uncertainty and a sense that you need the opposite?
- Is there a judgement or label? “Good”, “bad”, or otherwise?
- Is there a cognitive distortion in there? (emotional reasoning, all-or-nothing black and white thinking, catastrophizing…)
- Is there an inflated sense of importance and urgency?
As you train your brain to work for you, you free up space in your life for the things that matter to you most. When things get tough, and they will, remember why you started recovery. Keep going back to what it is you’re working towards – Is it bringing more love into your life? Is it having energy to pursue your dreams? Is it being able to be with your friends and family and not be constantly pulled away mentally by OCD, but instead being able to just enjoy?
Whatever it is that you desire in your heart, you deserve it, your worth it, and it’s in your heart because it’s meant for you. Each time you choose to take a healthy action rather than give into a compulsion to make yourself temporarily feel better, you move one step farther on your path. It’s a beautiful life out there. Go get it 😀